Bees are kept for the production of honey, other bee products, such as propolis and the services they offer to farmers like pollination.
Uses of bee products
Honey is used in brewing beverages and occasionally, it is served at important cultural ceremonies, such as weddings.
It is also served to important guests as a sign of high regard.
Honey was used in Egypt in cosmetics and for embalming the dead pharaohs. Honey was among the tithes and offertory given by the Jews to the Levites in their culture.
As source of food, honey is delicious and nutritious. It is an important food for many people in Uganda. It is consumed alone or mixed with other foods as supplement. For example, among the Langi and Acholi, honey is mixed with simsim and groundnut paste.
Bee brood (larvae and pupae) have high nutritional value and are fed to malnourished children.
Bee products are also used as antibiotics for the treatment of many conditions. These include stomach upsets, diarrhoea, vomiting, HIV/AIDS opportunistic infections, wounds, burns, cough, measles and false teeth.
Apart from honey, bees also produce wax and propolis which are non-perishable commodities that are sold locally and abroad.
Other reasons for keeping bees
The honeybee provides pollination service. As they pollinate flowers, bees play a vital role in food production and overall agricultural productivity.
Bees are considered the most efficient pollinators because they have hairy bodies which easily pick up pollen grains as they move about in flowers.
In one day, a bee may visit several hundred flowers. Over 75% of the crops in sub-Saharan Africa benefit from bee pollination. More bees means better pollination and high yields.
In some countries, farmers hire bees to pollinate their crops, which fetches the bee keeper additional income.
Conservation of nature
Keeping bees is a non-destructive activity that could be employed in the conservation of biodiversity in protected areas.
Households living adjacent to these areas can support the conservation efforts of the biodiversity by establishing apiaries within or at the boundary of the protected areas.
Farmers realising that vegetation is a source of forage for bees will guard against the destruction and be encouraged to plant more plants for supplying pollen and nectar.
In the process, many plants are conserved and protected from destruction.
Other people keep bees as a hobby.
Api-tourism and research
Establishment of bee reserves for purposes of tourist attraction and research holds a big potential for the future.
The extraction of venom and the use of bee stings are important remedies for many ailments such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and other diseases related to the nervous system.
Requirements for keeping bees
Beekeeping is a cheap undertaking. It does not involve feeding costs because the bees can provide their own food all year round.
More so, all the inputs and technologies required in beekeeping are locally available.
Beekeeping requires limited and marginal land. Honey and beeswax can be produced in semi-arid areas that are unsuitable for any other agricultural use.
In Uganda, bees do not need medication like other livestock. Bees in Uganda are still free from most diseases that affect bees.